MIAMI -- Restructuring the roster has been costly at the big league level, as the Marlins parted with a number of veterans, including Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes.
Over time, Miami is hoping that its recent blockbuster trade pays off at all levels of the organization. Immediate results should be felt in the Minor League system, which had been thinned in recent years.
Miami's 12-player trade with Toronto, which was finalized on Nov. 19, brought in seven players. Of the group, four -- Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez and Jeff Mathis -- are expected to be on the big league roster.
The other three -- Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeSclafani -- will likely open in the Minors.
"This deal, in general, it positions you to do one of two things -- which is to have this talent come and play for us in the Major Leagues, or to use this talent to get other pieces that we need to play in the Major Leagues," Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. "To have as big a stable as possible down there matters to your overall success. We had players. We have more now."
Marisnick, an outfielder, and Nicolino, a left-handed pitcher, have also reshaped Miami's prospect rankings. According to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, Marisnick is the Marlins' No. 3 prospect, followed by Nicolino at No. 4.
Christian Yelich and Jose Fernandez remain Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. And lefty Andrew Heaney, Miami's first-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, ranks fifth.
Fernandez, Marisnick and Yelich are likely to be at big league camp in Spring Training. But all three are projected to open the season at Double-A Jacksonville. Historically, the Marlins do not hesitate promoting players to the big leagues once they've shown they can perform at Double-A.
The Marlins' system has been criticized in recent years, largely because of a lack of production from first-round selections. Since 2002, the first year Jeffrey Loria owned the franchise, the Marlins haven't had much luck with first-rounders, which included Jeremy Hermida ('02) and Chris Volstad ('05).
The club's fortunes seem to have picked up the last three years with the selections of Yelich (2010), Fernandez ('11) and Heaney ('12).
"I'm not going to call it a bum rap, but maybe a skewed rap," Beinfest said of the team's system. "There has been a lot of attention on our first-round picks, and our failure thereof. I think it's justifiable. But our system, in general, has been productive."
Beinfest notes Giancarlo Stanton was a second-rounder (2007), and Steve Cishek was taken in the fifth round ('07). Logan Morrison was a 22nd rounder in '05.
"At the same time, you can say, 'Well, this first-round pick didn't make it,'" Beinfest said. "I think in the same breath, you have to say, 'Well, they got Stanton. They got Morrison. They found Steve Cishek in the fifth round.'
"Whoever it is, there are successes along the way, and we found a way for our system to be productive and to help us in times of need, when we've had severe revenue challenges. In Sun Life, we needed an influx of young players, and the farm system was there for us."
The Marlins are striving to build around pitching. Fernandez has the makings of a future ace. The hard-throwing right-hander comes off an outstanding 2012, when he was a combined 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA at Class A Greensboro and Class A Jupiter. In 134 total innings, he struck out 158.
The overall potential is there. It's a matter of when Fernandez is going to be ready and if the 20-year-old will be rushed.
Yelich, who turns 21 on Dec. 5, is a left-handed-hitting outfielder who batted .330 at Jupiter. He is moving quickly through the system as well.
Beinfest noted that Jupiter's rotation will be exciting to follow, with Heaney, Nicolino and DeSclafani.
To become an even deeper organization, the Marlins realize they have to hit more on their top picks.
"Do we need to do a better job with first-round picks? No doubt," Beinfest said. "I think we've done a better job. We're not going to know until these guys get here, but from every indication, certainly the last three -- Yelich, Fernandez, Heaney -- have been very impressive in their Minor League stints. And they're coming quickly. Hopefully, we have turned the corner."